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Long Time Dead
cast: Joe Absolom, Lara Belmont, Lukas Haas, and Melanie Gutteridge

director: Marcus Adams

94 minutes (15) 2001 VVL VHS retail Also available to buy on DVD

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Emma French
Unless you know beforehand, it comes as a shock when, after a brief, unnerving pre-credits sequence, the cast of this film begin speaking in British regional accents rather than Californian drawls. Long Time Dead has all the look, slickness, pacing and gore of a big budget Hollywood teen slasher movie, but it replaces wit and in-jokes with plausible student banter and a strong sense of how to set up a scene that frightens the viewer by making them think they know what will happen next. Marcus Adams provides competent, though occasionally pretentious, direction, and a fast-paced and relentless onslaught of frights.
   British student digs have never looked more dingy than they do in this film, from grubby communal toilets to a seedy barge location, all at an unspecified university campus. As always, sex and pot smoking are capital offences in these films, and are the respective preludes to the gruesome exits of the first two victims. The central conceit, that an ancient fiery djinn has been summoned from a ouija board and is killing students one by one, is quite original, albeit silly. There are far too many clich�d settings: the nightclub, the deserted warehouse, and the student dorm hallway. But manipulative and lazy as the set-ups are, they are often very frightening indeed. Long Time Dead is a film that succeeds in making you look over your shoulder for days afterwards, often not once but twice.
   The film effectively creates a sense of claustrophobic intensity. As always in the best teen horror films, there is a chilling sense of the protagonists' isolation from anyone who can help: police, tutors, and parents are all absent or just out of reach. The killing of the women is conducted with a rather lascivious directorial gaze in brightly lit environments, while men tend to die off screen in darkness. Lara Belmont overdoes the lip biting and shuddering as Stella, the most irritating member of the competent young ensemble cast, but most of the others inject genuine pathos into their plight. As the enigmatic Rob, Joe Absolom takes a very different part to his most well known previous acting role, that of the meek and vulnerable Matthew Rose in EastEnders. Amongst the older characters, Tom Bell is notable as the creepy landlord and Satanism enthusiast Becker. His performance becomes increasingly camp, eventually resembling the proverbial menacing amusement park owner in Scooby Doo.
   The ending lets the film down slightly. It is always hard to draw such a film to a surprising, comprehensible climax, and to avoid predictability the filmmakers allow the narrative of the closing scenes to become incoherent. Though presumably terrifying in the cinema, this film also suits the small screen, which brings out different qualities, such as its sense of inescapable enclosure and constriction, as opposed to the jumps and shrieks that take precedence in a movie theatre. All in all a perfect post-Halloween film - but make sure you aren't watching it on your own.
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